#4 Elephant Hairs
Lookout Kate

Lookout Kate here, reporting for duty. I’ve been up in the crow’s nest, watching the land of Fantasea grow closer.

Fantasea isn’t like the other lands we’ve visited – it’s a place between places. The West is a vast lake, full of islands which smell of extraordinary cooking and extraordinary people. A significant part of Central Fantasea – often inconveniently – is entirely invisible. But we were headed to the North of Fantasea, which, if you weren’t looking carefully, you could mistake for a forest. We landed at the edge of the wood, Satnav Steven studied the map, the Ever After deployed its wheels, and we trundled down a dirt path, into the deep darkness of the wood.

Navigating Fantasea is more exciting and perilous than most places, because it’s like walking a tightrope. Step off the path and you might find the ground giving way and yourself launched suddenly through time and space and story, into Middle Earth or Earthsea or Wonderland.

‘Everyone keep your hands inside, please – and catch the Bandicoot before she gets over the edge! We don’t want her ending up in Narnia again!’

In-The-Know-Joe reached out and caught Twist just as she got her front paws over the railing. He stroked her fur. ‘I know, I know. You want to explore,’ he whispered in her ear, ‘but the snow in Narnia gets in your whiskers and gives you flu. There’s nothing worse than a snotty Bandicoot.’

Fantasea is one of the richest lands in the world. The air smells enticing; of the winds of a thousand worlds and – perhaps unexpectedly, given how few great adventures involve washing – of clean laundry. There were many places we needed to go, and deciding where to go first was difficult. Everyone had a different opinion.

‘One at a time, crew!’ said the Captain. She took off her magnificent hat and shook her head. ‘Honestly, it’s like herding squirrels.’

I wanted to make the journey to Lyra’s Oxford, to see if we could find an alethiometer – it would make the job of a Lookout much easier, I thought, to be able to read the secrets of the world. Our Captain had a deep longing for the Pensieve, to store our memories safe forever. Cook Conomos thought we could do with a trip to Wonderland, to pick up some shrinking and expanding potions; useful for expanding rations.

But in the end, necessity won the day. The ship’s superb artist, Copy Kat, was in need of a new set of paintbrushes. There are many good paintbrushes available on Fantasea – just look at all the talking paintings – but the best, the really exquisite, fine-tipped paintbrushes, can only come from the ear-hairs of an enchanted elephant.

So we took a sharp right, towards a place where a cluster of black holes grew on great black oaks. We soared through the largest of the holes and into space.  

‘Hold on!’ cried the Captain – and we found ourselves flying through space – so fast I could feel my ribs rattling in my chest – towards Discworld and Great A’tuin.

Great A’tuin is a turtle. A big one. On the turtle’s back are four world-supporting elephants, and on the backs of the elephants is the Discworld, one of the most chaotic and sharp-witted worlds in the universe. Nobody knows the sex of Great A’tuin, though several spaceships have been sent to find out: but Great A’tuin is a private turtle, and people who get too close tend to end up more dead than they’d originally planned.

We swooped as close to Great A’tuin as we dared, steering clear of their claws, and Copy Kat leaned far over the edge with a pair of nail scissors. The front left elephant flapped its ears at us, annoyed, and as it did so Kat snipped off five fine hairs.

The elephant trumpeted – not hurt, but insulted – and we veered away into space, Kat clutching the hairs in her hand.

For a few minutes we stood on the deck, watching the great blackness of the universe, and the millions of stars. It was extraordinarily beautiful; the kind of sight you wouldn’t dare even dream of.

Then Satnav Steve spoke. ‘Captain,’ he said, ‘is this a good moment to mention that we’re lost?’

#3.1 Little Jack Horner Pie
Cook Conomos

Dear crew I regret that I have to leave the business of cooking in your hands while I am absent! Please carefully follow my meticulous instructions below!!

Little Jack Horner Pie

Ingredients:

Old mother Hubbard’s bone

Queen of hearts tarts

Broth without any bread

Snips and snails and puppy dogs tails (a bandicoot tail will work just as well)

Curds and whey

Plum – large and preferably organic

Oranges and lemons

Sugar and spice and all things nice

Four and twenty blackbirds

 

Method: 

Arrange the blackbirds in your work space and make sure they start singing BEFORE you prepare your mixture. That way you can be sure that your preparation will be sound and your method will match the pace and rhythm of the rhymes that they have been created from.

Using Mother Hubbard’s bone as a pestle crush half of the tarts into large pieces in time with the music – do not pulverise.

Take the other tarts and beat them with the puppy dog’s tail to flatten them and then use the tail as a rolling pin so that they form one sticky smooth pat-a-cake.

In a large baking tray place the crushed tarts in neat rows along the base of the tray. Leave the pat-a-cake to one side as it will form the lid to your pie.

In a separate bowl prepare the curds and whey. Grate in the orange and lemon zest and then squeeze the juice into the mixture. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

To prepare the plum first take out the stone. To do this cut along the crease, give it a twist (not referring to Mr Twist our bristly bandicoot) and the stone should come out with ease. Put the plum and Old Mother Hubbard’s bone into a saucepan and boil both in water adding the sugar and spice and all things nice so that these will flavour the broth.

Pour the broth over the crushed tarts in the tray to soften them.

Add the curds and whey mixture on top (look out for spiders!)

At this point using your thumb stick the plum into the centre of the pie.

Finally add the pat-a-cake on top, do not press down so that the curds and whey will not overflow. Prick it and pat it but DO NOT mark it with B (or else the bandicoot will think it is for him).

Use the snail slime to glaze the pat-a-cake and put the pie in the oven for 10 minutes.

If you make it just right it will be good from the first to the very last bite!

 

Love from Cook Conomos xxx

#3 Baby Bunting and the Land of Limericks
In-the-Know Joe

This is the log of science officer In-The-Know-Joe. We eventually left the whizz-banging craziness of the land of laughter no thanks to that dastardly Bandicoot Twist. I have it on good authority that it was because of her that our sensitive ship, The Ever After went off course.  The Ever After is a delicate machine, it needs to be treated gently and not have a pig-footed bandicoot going cock-a-foot all over its finely tuned instruments. I spent all day feeding the narrative thrust drives ‘feel good’ stories and happy endings to get our Prattle Ship back on track and now we find ourselves on the island chain of Bardland.

Bardland is a strange group of islands where nothing is quite what it seems. We landed on a salt marsh where we overheard nymphs talking to Goblins of green glass beads and red ruby rings though no matter how hard we looked we could not find the owners of the voices.  Kate Rundell, the ships boy was convinced of treasure and ran off over the salt marsh only to disappear into a gathering mist.

We called for her to no avail, Satnav Steve was sure he could track her but after following him for several hours we found ourselves back where we started, that’s when we heard a bang, a crash and a clatter. We had chanced upon the Onomatopoeic Forests.

The wind was whooshing,

the leaves rustling

every stick we stepped on snapped!

Every log we went around cracked!

We snapped and cracked

past gurgling rivers

through bubbling brooks when we heard

a clanker, a boink and a bump coming from a big red box!

A big red box

sitting out in the wood

I did not like it

no smart person would

it banged and it clattered

it boomed and it swelled

“Don’t go near it!”

came a shout from a girl.

She was up in a tree

so very high,

a girl in a tree

swaying up in the sky

we squinted

we stared

with our binoculars out

it was Kate, the ships boy

on the look-out.

“There are Things

in that box

that will jump everywhere

I barely escaped them

I trapped them in there.

They are Things that are crazy

that juggle fishes and stews

they call themselves silly names

THING one and THING two.”

It was only after we got the big red box safely packed on to The Ever After that we realised we’d been speaking in poems – these islands truly are magic.

Once we’d eaten our lunch of alphabetty spaghetti we headed back out to explore hopping on dream boats to the near-by island of Lullaby where ship’s artist Copy Kat gathered several jars of the “sleep” gunk that gathers at the corners of your eyes when you dream. On Lullaby there are mountains of the stuff smelling faintly of malt and hot cocoa. She said she had been looking for just that shade of yellow for her pictures. We took a brief nap on Lullaby before finding a bridge made of bunting, of various coloured fabric triangles, joining the Island of Lullaby to the near by Isle of Limerick. Swinging across this bunting were loads of very active smiling babies.

“If babies can do it so can we.”

Exclaimed Captain Jones and so we joined the babies hand over hand over the bunting bridge. We did wonder where the parents of these brave babies were, there were lots of rabbits on the island so maybe they were hunting or milking the cows we could hear mooing in the distance.

As soon as we landed in Limerick…

we met an old man in a wheel

with an orange he was trying to peel

he got covered head-to-foot

in orangey gloop

that poor fruit-starved man in the wheel.

He said his name was Edward Lear as he rolled off in search of more fruit to peel.

We left the rolling hills of Limerick  with just enough time to see the

fun sun set on the jungles of Rhyme with its…

funky monkeys

and small, half-giraffes

nibbling from the low leaves

of the knee trees.

We gathered some bags of rhymes to add to our big red box containing THING one and THING two.

As we sailed away on The Ever After we could hear battles being fought on the last island of the chain – the island of Ballad where great poetic battles are had between knights and dragons and kings and queens. As the thrust engines thrummed Look Out Kate was in the Prose Nest shouting down to us who was winning the battles on Ballad Island until it became too dark to see and all we could hear was the splishing and splashing of the waves.

#2.1 Strange noises…
In-the-Know Joe

There were strange loud noises coming from the Nonsense Marshes. I took out my listening trumpet and galumphed through the muddy waters rubbing my hands on the bellies of the Tumtum trees as I went (they are supposed to be lucky). My space suit was ruined by the time I got to the place where the sounds were coming from. Whatever was making the noises must have heard me coming for it shrieked and bellowed away. But on the ground I found a sword, an original Snicker-Snack Vorpal Blade! I was so pleased I yelled “Calloh! Callay!” What a fine addition for our collection.

#2 Ship’s Blog
Satnav Steven

Ahoy there, story seekers!

It’s Satnav Steven here, reporting from the observation deck of our terrific story-laden vessel.

Ooh it’s been a tense few days on board the Ever After.

Captain Jones got her medals in a muddle after I was late boarding the ship on the first day of our mission, and she spent the rest of the afternoon pacing about in the Never-ending Store. She was furious, and I suppose I can’t blame her. The Captain runs a tight ship and HATES tardiness.

It really wasn’t my fault though. I made sure I left lots of time to make it to The Story Museum, but I just kept getting lost. Every street in Oxford looks the same to me.

You see, I’ve got a bit of a problem.

You’re probably thinking my name is Satnav Steven because I’ve got an incredible sense of direction and I can track my way across the Story Universe with my eyes blindfolded. I am the navigator on board the Ever After after all.

NOPE!

My name is Satnav Steven because I really, really, really need one. I’m hopeless. I get lost looking for my hammock in my own cabin, but PLEASE don’t tell Captain Jones. I don’t think she’s figured out my secret yet, and she’ll kick me off for certain if she does.

I wouldn’t mind, except I LOVE stories and I’ve dreamed of working on board a Prattleship Narrative Ark since I was a boy.

Anyway… enough babbling… let’s get back to the mission.

After my late arrival, Captain Jones altered our course. We were supposed to be setting sail for the Land of Laughter, but she thought I could learn a lesson about good timekeeping by hearing a few moralistic fables, and changed our destination to The Spoken Isle.

I was determined to get it right. I checked the compass about a squillion times and plotted our coordinates exactly. We would take a direct route over the Final Fantasea and be in the Realm of Fables by dinnertime.

The only problem was, I’ve actually never used a compass before and I had the chronometer upside down.

I’m pretty sure you can guess what happened next. By the time dinnertime rolled around, instead of the sweeping hills of Myth and Legend, we were staring at the lop-sided, rainbow-coloured towns of Parody and Humour. Yep… after all that, we’d arrived at the destination we were meant to be heading for in the first place. THE LAND OF LAUGHTER!

I managed to convince In-The-Know Joe that Twist, our pet pig-footed bandicoot, had knocked the navigation gadgets when she was chasing a mouse and must have scrambled our coordinates. He spent the rest of the day back in the Narrative Thrust engine rooms tinkering with them. Ha!

So… somehow, I got out of that one. We ended up having a BRILLIANT time and even gathered our first artefacts whilst exploring the streets.

I stopped off in the neighbourhood of PRANKS to see my old friend, Dennis the Menace and grab a SLOPPER-GNOSHER-GUT-BUSTIN’-BURGER with him at Beanotown Burgers. He showed us all the funniest places to visit and donated his trusty catapult to the Ever After’s collection.

Then we popped over to Farmer Jenks’ field at the edge of town to spend the afternoon with Just William and his gang of outlaws, Ginger, Henry and Douglas. It took a bit of persuading, and I had to give up a large chunk of my stash of sweets and chocolate, but William finally agreed to give us his blue and white stripy cap to add to our booky treasure-trove onboard.

You might think that Dennis the Menace’s catapult and Just William’s cap were a really great start to our hunt for funny artefacts, but it didn’t end there. Just when we were about to head back to the ship, I spotted a scruffy house with a dead tree and a huge cage in the back garden. We snuck inside for a bit of a nose about and discovered two piles of clothes in the middle of the floor and all the furniture glued to the ceiling. I’m sure you’ve guessed which gross double-act the house used to belong to…

That’s right! Mr and Mrs Twit! No one wanted to stick around in that horrid place for too long, but we made our final discovery and collected something deliciously funny and wickedly hilarious.

Wait for it…

MRS TWIT’S GLASS EYE!

It’s been safely wrapped and put away in the Never-ending Store along with the other treasures. It won’t be long before they’re joined by tons of other exciting story-related objects.

Here’s hoping we end up somewhere just as fun the next time I get us all lost.

This is Ship’s Navigator, Satnav Steven signing off.

Ever After…

 

#1.1 The Launch Date
Captain Jones

We launch on an auspicious day: 10 February, Plimsoll Day, the birthday of my hero Samuel Plimsoll, a Victorian who campaigned for the safety of sailors. Gave his name to the load line that shows how deep in the water a vessel can sit.  And also to the shoes schoolchildren wear for PE which were named after him by a sales rep called Mr Lace (it’s true – Lace who was in shoes) because, being rubber underneath and canvas above, they can only be safely immersed in water up to a certain point, like a merchant ship.

There’s our first story, though a true one. Perhaps I shall give my plimsolls to The Story Museum.

#1 Captain’s Blog
Captain Jones

Call me Captain Jones. I run a tight ship and am master of a glorious mission, a quest to find the 1001 objects and moments in your favourite fictional stories, which will take us into uncharted waters. Or uncharted skies. As well as lands with fantastic maps.

Today we were to set sail at 0800 hours from the Museum in our fabulous vessel, the Ever After, a Prattleship-Class Narrative Ark, which will be our home for the duration of the voyage. I’d sent Lookout Kate on a last-minute errand, and meanwhile intended to organise a human chain to load the kitbags and hammocks and collecting gear on board, but some of the rest of the crew had gone AWOL. (I think they’re going to need a firm hand. Proper respect should be paid to my experience and my gold braid.)

The only early boarder was the bandicoot, and she’s no use. Came trundling up the gangplank on the dot with an expression of entitlement.  As if she belongs. Twist stowed away once somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, and has been tagging along ever since. (I confess I’ve got oddly attached to the sneaky piece of work, despite her grumpiness. I suppose if all your relatives were extinct, you might get a bit glum too.)

The others showed up soon after. The Science Officer and the Ship’s Artist had gone exploring.  Too many objects of interest in the Museum, apparently.

The Navigator, Satnav Steven, turned up late because he’d got lost.

Still, just a bit behind schedule, we got everything stowed in the Never-Ending Store and were rewarded with breakfast supplied by Cook Conomos, accompanied by a loud tirade about how the timing of her Greek pancakes had been messed up by the delay.  At least this time she stopped short of throwing pans. (Though mostly she throws them at Twist.)

In case she changed her mind, I retired to the safety of the bridge with the Navigator to plot our course. It’s a tricky business.  Some directions are more specific than others: follow “the yellow brick road” or the train from Platform 9 and 3 /4; “second star on the right and straight on till morning”; “sail away for a year and a day”; “look toward the sun and walk into the sky”; “down the rabbit hole”; “through the wardrobe” … Some are very vague indeed: “one does not simply walk into Mordor”.

Am in constant contact with Mission Control at the Museum, which is collecting your ideas to beam up to us. We’ll be sucking and scooping them up through the Horton Hearing Hoover and in the Charlie Bucket, and catching thought bubbles in our Inter-net.

I gave the command to head first for the Land of Laughter. Always a good starting place for a long navigation through stories.

But Satnav Steven had wandered off again. I heard a voice saying “I have nothing to declare but my genius,” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged …” and tracked him down to the Observation Deck.

I had just given the order to weigh anchor and boost the Narrative Thrust, when Copy Kat, on First Watch, sounded the alarm. She thought Lookout Kate was still not aboard. I’d assumed she was, but she couldn’t be found.  She has a way of nipping up the rigging when not needed. Could she have slipped? Was she overboard …?